Mobile apps make it easier to plan your dream vacation

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Mobile apps make it easier to plan your dream vacation

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Office worker Kim Hae-na traveled to Paris during the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

But this time, the 39-year-old prepared for travel in a slightly different way than how she usually prepares for trips. And it was much easier and more satisfying.

Rather than getting help from a major travel agency or sacrificing her free time to browse thousands of travel-related websites and books, Kim started off by downloading a couple of travel apps recommended by her friends.

The first app she saved on her smartphone was Wishbeen, which let her see diverse itinerary models that others have already set up for themselves. Depending on the type of trip, the shared itineraries have distinctive features.

For example, some of them focus more on sightseeing while others are more oriented toward enjoying food and drinks.

Unique concepts like “traveling like a Parisian” or “trying out every hot pub in Paris” can also be spotted.

She started off with a Parisian-style itinerary which was uploaded by someone actually living in Paris. It included all the secret hot spots.

Next, Kim moved on to Stubby Planner, where she could check out how much money she could expect to spend for her five-day trip.

Then, she was ready to look up a local Korean guide who could give her a tour of the famous Louvre Museum. That step was possible through an app called My Real Trip, which offers a service that matches potential travelers with local guides who speak their language.

Finally, Kim was ready to find an affordable airline ticket through the Skyscanner app.

“For my previous trips, setting up courses for my trip gave me headaches. So I just let the travel agency take care of it although it cost me more,” Kim said. “But there are so many clever travel apps nowadays that it is a DIY era for travelers too!”

Entrusting one’s itinerary to trustworthy travel agencies was the most popular option for Korean travelers in the past when not much information was available otherwise. If you just pay the fee, they would provide you with the most cost-efficient and simple tour course.

However, that is not the case anymore.

As traveling abroad has become more common, more and more people are willing to share the tips they have acquired themselves while traveling.

And the most suitable platform for sharing that kind of information is none other than smartphone apps.

Not only are they helpful for structuring your itinerary before taking off, they also come in extremely handy in emergency situations abroad. Whether it be needing a place to sleep right away or finding the fastest route to the airport, it is all available on apps.

Also, a rising number of people are opting for trips that have a distinctive concept instead of cookie-cutter tour packages, once provided by the agencies.

With the expansion of Korea’s tourism industry, an increasing number of people are revisiting their favorite destinations under different themes as well.

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According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of people who departed the country last year was 19.3 million, which was a 20 percent jump over the year before. Last year, Koreans spent 24 trillion won on traveling abroad.

One of the most popular travel apps is My Real Trip, which connects potential travelers with local guides.

About 660 Korean guides are signed up with the app and they have come up with some 1,700 travel packages that vary according to certain concepts and specific destinations. Users can browse through every one of these packages and pick the one that best suits their travel style.

“These days, the travelers want more than just being guided by local guides,” said No Jeon-yeon, the marketing manager for the five-year-old company. “Now they want to actually live like the locals, so we are planning on expanding packages with those kind of concepts, too.”

Unique travel packages include those where local guides take snapshot photos of the traveling couples or families. Another interesting concept is being invited to local households to enjoy home-cooked meals or receiving help from a local artist to actually paint a picture of, for example, the Seine in Paris.

Officials say those who like to try these one-of-a-kind tours tend to be more active in sharing their experiences.

Another app that promotes sharing one’s own itinerary is Wishbeen.

This platform lets people share the schedules they followed on previous trips. A mix of photos and descriptions fill out the itineraries, making it easier to follow.

You certainly don’t have to follow the itineraries included in the app from start to finish. Rather, it’s recommended that you pick and choose what interests you most.

Up until now, about 162,811 reviews have been uploaded to the app. Not only for traveling overseas, the app provides abundant information on domestic travel as well under concepts such as “couple getaway” or “gourmandism tour.”

But enough talk about planning your itinerary. Everything becomes meaningless if you can’t afford it.

If you want to get a rough estimate of your overall budget for your upcoming trip, Stubby Planner is a good place to start.

Once a destination and time period are typed in, the app immediately calculates an approximate estimate of the budget. It then gives you detailed information on rates for flights, public transportation, lodging and admission to must-see destinations. In addition, the service gives you general information about the discounts you can get there. It sure is a useful app even once you are at the location.

If you are on a tight budget and can’t afford to pay more than what you initially set aside, Trabee Pocket is a helpful app to prevent you from splurging.

Once you enter the budget you are allowed and start recording your spending during your trip, the app keeps you updated on how much you have left. It gives you a big picture of how you are managing your budget such as if there is a category that you are spending too much compared to your overall budget.

Another app that comes in handy when planning travel, in particular searching for affordable airline tickets, is Skyscanner. Just enter your destination and departure and arrival dates, and the app shows the cheapest airline tickets available both from domestic and international carriers.

However, if you just don’t have enough time to browse the internet every day to check if any cheaper tickets open up, try Playwings. If you input your itinerary information, the app automatically delivers updates on plane ticket rates.

These trends are big internationally, too, according to this year’s ITB Berlin, a major travel trade show.

Its annual trend report pinpointed the continuous rise of the sharing economy in the tourism industry, as shown by Airbnb and Uber. It said that the sharing concept “will continue to gain market share through its combination of low prices and social accommodation.”

“Consumers are acquiring more precise and useful information without the help of travel agencies,” said Lee Hoon, a professor of tourism at Hanyang University. He added that local travel agencies are shifting according to this trend.

Hana Tour, the nation’s No. 1 travel agency, recently launched an app that provides digital maps and guides written by its subsidiary, Tourtips. And rival company Mode Tour updated its app Trip Info M by adding an audio guide service.

BY PARK SU-RYON AND CHOI EUN-KYUNG [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]
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